Four technologies that can revolutionize your customer processes

Craig Sharp

Technology moves at rapid speed, and while there are some circles claiming that Moore’s law might be beginning to slow down, it’s still a struggle for the everyday user to keep up with the pace.

However you don’t always need to look towards the new and innovative for technological revolution in your business, sometimes the answer lies in existing technologies rather than the cutting edge. For example:

Technology can save you time, money and your reputation

#1 - Closed loop marketing can streamline and tailor product offerings to your customers.

For many organizations, sales and marketing are still two very different animals. One department crafts the message, the other sells it. This works perfectly for many companies, but it also means that customers are generally presented with ‘one size fits all’ messages and materials.

Imagine if there was a software suite that could not only log each and every sales call, the content of its discussion, and the outcome, but could also deliver individual, tailored messaging at the user’s request? A suite of tools that would display products and services based on the customer’s historic needs and would update in real-time based on information given by the sales consultant?

Well the good news is there isn’t one software suite that does this – there are many. Closed Loop Marketing (CLM) has been around now for a number of years, and depending on the product it’s either hosted on company servers or (to coin the favoured marketing term) ‘in the cloud’. Each provider of course has its own USP, and the minutiae of what you get for your money does vary from product to product, but the principles are largely the same – real time customer data input, live analysis and a tailored sales & marketing message sent back live to the sales rep in the field, making for a much more personal, properly considered, and hopefully successful sales call with the customer.

#2 - A live chat facility can take the sting out of contacting customer support.

As you’ve probably experienced in your own personal life, any time a service falters and contacting customer support becomes the only avenue left, the blood pressure begins to rise. It isn’t that we’re averse to speaking to the customer support teams at our gas/electricity/mobile phone/internet providers, it’s simply that usually the experience is a painful one of recorded automated menus, cheesy hold music, followed by more menus and (if you’re really unlucky) a disconnect. Call back, rinse, repeat.

While the above description is perhaps a little extreme, contacting customer support for anything is at best an inconvenience for the customer and at worse a horrible experience. It’s time that could be better spent doing something else, and while many customer support agents are friendly, professional and diligent, we all have one or two horror stories to share.

Again, technology can come to the rescue! Live chat, an instant messaging tool embedded into your company website, can be an invaluable tool and a revolutionary convenience for your customers. It takes the perceived delay out of customer support and generally if it’s available as an option, users will tend to opt for Live Chat rather than phoning the customer service hotline.

The technology is getting on a bit now, but it’s still underutilised by service providers and e-commerce companies. A study published on eMarketer back in 2009 found that 63% of respondents said they’d be more likely to go back to an e-commerce site with live chat support functionality.

#3 - Mobile apps and web apps can make life more convenient for your customer.

The current ethos of forward-thinking companies is that you shape the technology to meet the needs of the customer, not the other way around. If you already have an e-commerce site selling your products and services then that’s a step in the right direction; but what if your customer is on the move and needs to make the purchase quickly? Does your webstore make use of ‘responsive web design’? Does it resize based on the screen it’s being used on? Can your customers easily navigate and purchase from a tablet computer or a mobile phone as well as they can on their PC?

Many of the bigger companies have already made the move to mobile. Amazon, Lloyds Bank and Arriva (a bus/train operator) are just a few of the examples from my own device. Why? Because they’re convenient, they’re instantly accessibly and as such, customers are likely to use them with more regularity. Your customers will access and purchase your goods and services more readily if they’re presenting in a format that is convenient to them. And here you have some options.

There’s the aforementioned ‘responsive web design’, which is the techie name for a website that resizes and rearranges based on the screen size of the device it’s being viewed on. This website is an example of responsive web design at work. You’ll notice if you view it on a laptop or on a smaller screen, it’ll display differently, ensuring that key navigation points and information are always displayed in a way that is clear and easy to use for the customer.

The other option of course is a mobile app. This has its advantages, it’s more familiar to customers and the icon on their screen is a constant visual reminder for them. However it also presents some unique challenges – it’s an entirely separate digital tool to maintain, and of course you’d need to decide how many versions you wanted – one for Apple, one for Google and one for Windows Mobile?

#4- An analytics suite can combine and harmonize your current reporting systems, and help to spot trends and pain points more easily.

Large or small, service provider or manufacturer, your organization likely has numerous processes & departments already and any savvy business owner will tell you that regular performance updates and reporting are vital to ensuring the business is headed in the right direction.

However if your managers are still reporting from spread sheets in excel, you may be wasting not only man hours, but a great deal of potential revenue. A unified analytics suite can not only make the regular tracking and inputting of data a much quicker and easier process, but can also spot trends across departments, flagging up warnings in, say, customer support if there’s an issue with a late delivery in procurement. The initial outlay is usually reasonably costly, but the potential savings in man hours, customer issues, cancelled orders and other possibly unforeseen situations means a proper analytics suite more than pays for itself.